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Aristotle's ManSpeculations upon Aristotelian Anthropology$

Stephen R.L. Clark

Print publication date: 1975

Print ISBN-13: 9780198245162

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198245162.001.0001

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(p.217) Appendix D: Ta Noeta and the Unmoved Movers

(p.217) Appendix D: Ta Noeta and the Unmoved Movers

Aristotle's Man
Oxford University Press

  1. 1. I have suggested (V.3. 10f.) that the Prime's thinking Itself should not be taken as narcissism but as the contemplation of the principles of being—a contemplation which, being perfect and eternally actual, is (i) indis-tinguishable from the Prime's own being and (ii) leaves nothing uncon-templated in its objects. The human soul in ‘becoming all things’ neces sarily leaves the things themselves external to its own activity—for they exist as thinkable etc. (see III.1.13) before they are thought by us, and may be realized by other thinkers in ways other than ours. In wakefully confronting the world we experience its being as making demands on us which may conflict with our immediate tastes (see VI). The Divine, on the other hand, does not have to ‘become all things’, nor do the objects of its thought exist as potentially thinkable before it thinks them, nor are there any other versions of those objects than the ones it eternally is. The Divine is not confronted by something to which it must conform—rather is it itself the light to which we conform. This account of divine self-awareness, not as an empty consciousness that it is conscious, but as a ‘finding’ of its being in its eternal activity of contemplating the principles of being, is at one with my account of self-love (IIL3.29), and with KRAMER's analysis of the topic.

  2. 2. Of the secondary movers I have said little, insisting only that the relationship between them and the Prime is the typically Aristotelian one of whole (chief part) to other parts (V.3.16), and suggesting in passing that they may not be nooi, as is commonly assumed (what, after all, do they intuit? V.3.25n.). It is perhaps possible to say rather more, and to connect the topic with the Prime's contemplation. Both JACKSON and Kramer have attempted this, though for different reasons. Jackson found a contradiction between Aristotle's rejection of an ‘episodic’ universe in favour of a ‘monarchy’ (Met. XII, 107S b37f.), and his admission of a plurality of unmoved movers (Met. XII, 1073a14f; see De Caelo 279a18f.). He re solved this by supposing that the secondary movers were the thoughts of the Prime, so that no other arche was in question (cf. III.3.25 on kings). Kramer, working from the other end, seeks to find some object of thought for the Prime that is not external to it (see Pol. VII, 1325b28f.). Because he holds that the forms of the kosmos must be thus external, the only plausible objects for the Prime's ‘interior contemplation’ are those ‘forms (p.218) in separation’, the secondary movers. The hierarchy of movers is therefore offered as an account of the structure of the Divine, which both knows nothing that is not itself and equally is not empty awareness of awareness. If this interpretation, as it stands, is correct, it seems that God need not know the world (against V.3.28), and that our reception of the Divine involves a turn away from the world of sense into Platonism (against V.2. 12 etal.).

  3. 3. Jackson's problem is, I think, unreal. In thePeri Philosophias(fr.17 Ross) Aristotle inquires: are the archai one or many? If many, are they tetagmenoi or ataktoi, ordered or disorderly? If ordered (as they surely are), by something else or by themselves? If by themselves, then they have koinon ti sunapton autas, something in common that unites them (see App.B.7). In any event but that of an episodic and disordered universe (which is absurd), there is some one supreme arche. ra Be ovra ov KccKcbsithings are unwilling to be badly co ordinated (Met. XII, 1076a 3f.). That there is one such arche does not exclude the existence of other archai, any more than there being one supreme end excludes, or includes, the goodness of other ends (V.i.n et al). It is the Divine which introduces law and order into the otherwise dis-orderly (Pol. VII, 1326a 30; see III.2.19). REICHE (p. 98) has emphasized the parallel between astral and biological psycho-physics (as at De Caelo 292s 18f.; see also App.A): I would emphasize, as before, the parallel between astronomy and ethics. We may explain, or govern, our desires by reference to higher or more distant ends (see II.2.27, II.3.30, V.1.13), but this does not mean that the objects of those desires are merely means. Similarly the First Heaven's pursuit of the Prime provides a setting, and an ordering, for the planetary spheres, without the Prime's therefore having to comprise the movers of those spheres. Order does not necessitate tyranny. Nor is an ordering principle wholly defined by the order it induces.

  4. 4. This is, in effect, to reiterate my suspicion that the lesser movers are no more nooi than the lesser gods of the Greek Pantheon are Zeuses. Reiche's new fragment of the Peri Philosophias, continuing fr.18 Ross (coaxed from Philo De Aet emit ate 4.13), shows Aristotle speaking with approval of Plato's astral gods as a theoprepes ekklesia. The gods of Olympus may all be gods—they are far from indistinguishable (see OTTO). D. J. Allan has suggested to me that Aristotle truly intended only seven secondary movers, one per planet. This would give a clear hierarchy of movers (Met. XII, 1073b if.) and accords with my suggestion—for the association of the planets with principles of being less than the supreme is familiar, e.g. from Dante. This might be what Aristotle would have (p.219) preferred, but his insistence that each planet has several motions(Met.XII, 1073b8f., De Caelo292if.) seems to require that there be many more than seven movers. This in fact provides that the planets may represent our own involvement in decision-making and occasional preference of one end to another (see De Caelo 292b 2f.). The movers' hierarchy is fixed by the hierarchy of planets (De Caelo 292b1f.) and also because the spheres of each planet are contained and conditioned one by another (De Caelo 293a4f.).How exactly Aristotle would have paired the values of astronomical movers and human goods is a matter on which we can have no opinion. The detail of such correspondences, in any case, seems to have been of little concern to him (see App.B.2). It remains plausible that some such correspondence is intended. The Prime is functionally identical with Zeus, as Aristotle recognizes (De Motu 699b38f.), and there are other, although lesser, gods. The rule of the kosmos is not tyranny, in which all ends but one are barred, but Law. This Law is God and Nous (Pol. Ill, 1287a 28f.). As in a household the freeman's choice of action is most constrained by principle, while slaves, animals (and children?) may live more at random, so also in Nature the higher entities are most principled: further down much more occurs that is non-systematic (Met. XII, 1075a19f.). Order is most visible in the heavens, and the contemplation of that order is a great good (see Protrepticus fr.n Ross).

  5. 5. Though Jackson's problem is unreal, his conclusions may well be partly true: namely that the Prime does contemplate the secondary movers. Kramer has argued that this is all It can contemplate without passing to externals. Certainly the Prime's objects of thought must be ‘without matter’—for it is matter which disallows the pure identity of thought and thinking. So that only the separate forms, it seems, are suitable objects for the Prime. All the Prime knows, and orders, is that hierarchy of being which incidentally to its own essence attracts the kosmos at various levels. The kosmos is therefore a copy of an immaterial and eternal world which knows nothing of the kosmos. This is a strangely super-Platonic doctrine for Aristotle to espouse. If that is what goodness is, let us seek something other than goodness which has some relevance for men (see N.E. I, 1096b32f. against separate, universal, unattainable goodness). Do we need this step? I have suggested (V.3.26) that as the kosmos itself is not in anything, as there is not more than one kosmos, the kosmos itself as a whole is in a sense without matter (cf. II.3.20, 32): for the form of the kosmos is not one which can be instantiated more than once. To contemplate and be the forms of the kosmos, then, is not to leave anything contemplatable outside that contemplation. It is not to be associated with any externals. The kosmosy$ material indeterminacy at its lower levels is not thus known, by anyone. The kosmos is not therefore external to the Prime.

  6. (p.220) 6. To elaborate: thekosmosis one, but there is no more than onekosmos.How shall this be? One swallow does not make a species (IV.2.6). If the kosmos is a unique individual it is unknowable. There is no such thing as the kosmos, for there cannot be one of a kind unless there could be many (see II.3.29). In such rarefied heights of speculation there are no final solutions: my suggestion has been that our occasional intuition of the world as a hierarchic order of great beauty is to be interpreted, in Aristotelian vein, as our noetic capacity's actualization by the One, the pre-existent and Comprehensive Divinity which both the World's components and ourselves desire and seek to imitate. By its actualization of our capacity it engenders many human, incarnate nooi and many orderly and beautiful life-worlds (see VI). The supreme Nous, and the Supreme kosmos are, in a sense, of kinds. They are in fact the same kind. As Kramer observes, it is significant that the Politics passage he cites (Pol. VII, 1325b28f.) links God and the kosmos as alike having no external relationships. If God is the order of the kosmos, or conversely the kosmos embodies over time the forms of life which are eternally intuitable by human beings and eternally intuited by the Supreme, this is hardly surprising. The Prime can contemplate the forms of the kosmos without thereby contemplating what is external to Itself, or what involves matter in the opprobrious sense. Whatever our intuited world may be, the World Itself continues unabashed by our insight or our error. Things exist before we see them. They do not exist before or independently of the Divine. God-and-Afaws eternally contemplates and is God-and-Nature: the principles at work in the kosmos are the eternal objects of Divine apprehension.

  7. 7. This said, that thereneedbe no exclusion of the Prime from knowledge of the principles of cosmic being, it remains true that the secondary movers are plausible candidates for the Prime's chief contemplation. It is they after all that are responsible for the clear order of the heavens. The moral, particularly if my suggestion about their general nature is accepted, is that the sublunary world also seeks to embody (though imperfectly) those same ordered principles that the spheres successfully embody over time. These principles are separate in that they are not exclusively embodied even in the heavens: they are available for sublunary encouragement. This suggestion was to be taken by later thinkers as an excuse for discovering the nature of the good life from a contemplation of the sky. I do not suggest that Aristotle would have gone so far. The sublunary world, none the less, is not wholly random, and its cycles and changes are largely dependent on the heavens (IV.2. nf.). But our own internalization of cosmic Law and Order is dependent in the end upon a direct enlightenment by Divine Nous, rather than a pedantic appreciation of astrological correspondences. We do not need to inspect (p.221) the heavens to discover the principles of being. Even if we restrict the Prime's knowledge to the hierarchy of secondary movers we may still suppose that in our capacity to be guided by Nous and its lieutenants (see Pol. Ill, 1287b8f.)we demonstrate that this Good (both as the ordered life and as the supreme form of life: V.1.19) is after all available to man without his turning wholly from the world of sense,

  8. 8. Nothing that is intelligible is outside the Prime. Of nothing can it be said that it is intelligible (by us) but not understood by the Prime. Certainly, It has no knowledge of the accidental—there is no such knowledge. (IV.2.6f.). Certainly, It has no perception of the world of our senses. But we in turn only have such perception in so far as we make use of, or receive the sense of, the entity and entities of the kosmos (see III.1.25). The heavens, for Plato, were a mirror of the Divine. So also, despite necessary qualifications, were they for Aristotle. Neither philosopher imagined the dead universe of our present cosmologies, nor were they satisfied by merely mathematical accounts (cf. Met. XII, 1075b37f.), but rather inhabited the ‘human’ kosmos of archaic thought (II.3, VI). The backwards and forwards dance of the planets under the arch of the first heaven was for them an exposition of the divine-human life which it was our responsibility to enact and understand below the moon (see Peri Phil. fr.12b Ross; CHROUST (2) I ch. 16). If we failed in this, yet could we still be sure that the whole company of Heaven eternally succeeds. The forms of the secondary movers are not separate (as are Plato's forms) because never wholly instantiated. Rather are they separate because they are not equivalent even to the most exhaustive description of the sphere's movements—they are the sense of those motions. They are separate also in that they may be known (are known by the Prime) in an undivided moment (see IV.2.23), but can be approached by the spheres only over a period, and are never wholly instantiated by the spheres at a single moment. We do not need to look away from the world to find them, but to examine the world in honesty, and wait upon the God. What that God may be expected to announce is beyond my brief.